A big step from the Ice Breaker

January 15, 2013 at 8:17 pm Leave a comment

The beginning of a new year is a good time to reflect on accomplishments and look forward to the next step—the next contest season and a speech for the International speech contest particularly. As I prepare to take a next step towards the designation of Distinguished Toastmaster, still a  lengthy journey, I remember my early days in Toastmasters.

The Ice Breaker is both the hardest and easiest speech, I was told. The hardest, to get up  in front of the club and give my first one. The easiest was supposed to be talking about myself, but I would argue with that. Who wanted to hear about me and my little life? Apparently I was wrong.

February 5, 2004, marked on the Energetics educational schedule, the date my mentor Tammy booked me for my Ice Breaker. Many beads of sweat, indecision on my topic preceeded that day, and had I known it then, it was safe to say many revisions of a speech went the way of recycling bin or delete that previous month.

I had written a poem that month about a childhood memory, one that would go on to be published. It came to me one day as I drove home from an errand that the memory and poem would be a good topic for my speech. But what would my fellow club members care about my life?

I  wrote a new speech, practised and rehearsed, including for my mentor and a fellow Toastmaster, and soon the day was upon me. Could I remember all I had written? Would it be like a school speech that took me to county level, when my mother had to prompt me when words and memory failed? No, I’ll not soon forget the day.

Lacking the grace of more experienced members, I held my notes tight in my hand. The pages shook like a leaf in a storm, just like my hand that held them. I’ve been told that my voice trembled too, and I sure know that my knees did. But never mind, I got through it, shook the Toastmasters’ hand and returned to my seat, glad to be done. I admit to feeling the fight or flight, but I just couldn’t leave. My legs would not have allowed me to move that far or that fast.

I made it to my seat somehow, but the experience wasn’t over. I couldn’t quite let go of the tension of preparing, waiting and anticipating. It was like the slinky toy we had at home, making its way down the stairs until all its momentum and energy were at a standstill. My body still tingled with that nervous energy.

The applause of my fellow members  was like music to my ears.  I remember feeling so relieved and thankful for their kind words that I had to hold back tears.  Maybe just a few slid down my face. I’d just have to wait to see what my evaluator said about my performance.

The feedback was so encouraging that when I went home that night, I was tempted by a topic for the next speech, and on it went from there. I did not rush through the projects, but prepared carefully for each one, for my evaluation was at stake and so was my progress.

One speech at a time, I have continued to Advanced Communicator Gold as well as storytelling with a guild, at Open Story night and in public events, in giving workshops at both Write! Canada and Toastmaster conference and training events.

Had I stopped in 2004, I would not have learned how to manage the nervousness that comes from standing in front of a group of people and speaking—one of the greatest fears in the world, and one so many avoid because they just cannot bring themselves to do it. I’m so glad I started before my first book was published. It made promotion and speaking at the events so much more comfortable.

If I can do it, so can you!

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Carolyn, who has since gone on to storytelling, and sometimes on the street corner in a public event

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Entry filed under: photography, poetry, public speaking, speaking, storytelling. Tags: , , , .

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